The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
June 3, 4, 5 & 6, 2009.
Murdered to Death
by Peter Gordon
Judith Berrill – Mildred
Kati Szeless – Dorothy [her niece and companion]
Ray Hopper – Bunting [the Butler]
Paul Checkley – Colonel Craddock
Diane Robinson – Margaret Craddock [his wife]
Adrian Kenward – Pierre Marceau [a French Art Dealer]
Sophie Lane – Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington
Anna Quick – Joan Maple
Guy Steddon – Inspector Pratt
Tom Harris – Constable Thompkins
Stage Manager – David Comber
Deputy Stage Manager – John Garland
ASM – Olive Smith
Set Design – David Comber
Lighting Design – Mike Medway
Lighting Operator – Lee Wenham
Props – Margaret Davy
Props – Sue Whittaker
Props – Joan Bearman
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Margaret Pierce
Workshop Team – David Collis
Workshop Team – Carl Gray
Workshop Team – Sue Chaplin
Workshop Team – Paul Checkley
Workshop Team – Richard Letchford
Workshop Team – David Comber
Workshop Team – Margaret Davy
Workshop Team – Sheila Neesham
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Lucien Bouchy
Publicity – Anna Barden
Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Production Photos – Lucien Bouchy
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: Murdered to Death
BR wrote: “Peter Gordon and “The Inspector Pratt Mysteries”
Peter Gordon’s plays are widely enjoyed in community theatres across the UK and world-wide. Since 1990 he has published nine full-length comedies, the best-known of which are the trilogy of murder mysteries involving the clueless Inspector Pratt. Murdered to Death was the first in the series, followed by Secondary Cause of Death and Death by Fatal Murder.
It’s fairly obvious from the titles that we are not in the realms of high drama, or even clever crime detection! These are plays that poke fun at the conventions of the ‘country house murder’ mystery, which authors like Agatha Christie have made so popular. Murdered to Death takes the classic build-up to a murder and presents us with suspects galore, all conveniently gathered for the weekend in the same country house. But then, thrown into the mix, comes the totally incompetent Inspector Pratt, accompanied by the luckless village bobby, PC Thompkins.
This is an affectionate spoof of a very British genre. We hope it raises your spirits!”
Publicity #1: Murdered to Death
Publication Data: June 3 2009
Text Header: Party atmosphere ends in tragedy
WHO dunnit? Who shot Mildred in her own country house at the start of a weekend party? The bungling Inspector Pratt will be on the case in Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon, an hilarious spoof in the best Agatha Christie tradition.
The play, set in the 1930s, is Wick Theatre Company’s contribution to the Adur Festival.
Performances run from today, Wednesday, June 3 to Saturday, June 6, at 7.45pm at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick. Tickets cost £8.50 for Wednesday and Thursday, and £9 for Friday and Saturday. They are available from the box office on 01273 597094 or online: www.wicktheatre.co.uk
In tru Christsie style, Mildred’s guests prove to be a strange assortment. First to arrive are Colonel Charles Craddock and his wife Margaret [Paul Checkley and Diane Robinson]. It soon turns out the the bluffCharles is an old flame of Mildred’s, and she’d like him back!
Pierre Marceau, a French are dealer [Adrian Kenward] who sold two pictures to Mildred in Paris, is another guest, plus the posh and fashionable Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington [Sophie Lane]. Mildred’s companion, her niece Dorothy, doesn’t appear to trust either of them. Then there’s Bunting, the oddest of butlers who’s much too fond of the best sherry. Judith Berrill appears as Mildred, Kati Szeless, is Dorothy, and Ray Hopper plays Bunting.
Joan Marple [Anna Quick], a near neighbour, calls and wangles an invitation to dinner. She has the uneviable reputation of attracting murders wherever she goes, and sure enough, when Mildred goes off into the dining room, a fatal shot is fired. Enter Inspector Pratt, England’s answer to Inspector Clouseau, aided by Constable Tompkins. Pratt played by Guy Steddon, and the constable Tom Harris.
It soon becomes clear that the murderer hasn’t finished yet, but will the villain be caught before everyone else meets their doom, or will the audience die laughing first?
With more than 500 successful productions to its credit, the play is a hit wherever it goes. And under the direction of Bob Ryder, this award-winning company will be bringing its own touch of class to a wonderfully entertaining night at the theatre.
Review #1: Murdered to Death
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Sam Woodman
Text Header: Cast spoofs to conquer in killing joke of a play
TO pull off a spoof play takes some doing. Often, there’s barely any middle ground, meaning the end result is either a triumph or a disappointment.
Wick Theatre Company, then, was well deserving of the rapturous applause as the curtain came down on Murdered to Death – Peter Gordon’s play spoofing the murder-mystery genre. The company’s Adur Festival offering included all the classic elements of a murder mystery, right down to the old country house and an eclectic group of guest invited to dinner.
Judith Berrill played Mildred, who lived at the estate with niece Dorothy [Kati Szeless] and butler Bunting [Ray Hopper]. They were joined for dinner by Colonel Craddock [Paul Checkley] and his wife Margaret [Diane Robinson], French art dealer Pierre Marceau [Adrian Kenward] and blonde socialite Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington [Sophie Lane]. Cue an interruption by village busybody Joan Marple [Anna Quick], who is seemingly followed by murderous acts, and the first pf a few fatal gunshots wasn’t far behind.
All detective stories need a detective, and Guy Steddon was in fine form, as usual, as the bungling Inspector [or was that sergeant?] Pratt, supported by Tom Harris as Constable Thompkins. Plenty more shots followed, including two into PC Thompkin’s feet, and the farce continued from there.
Each cast member played their rôle well under Bob Ryder’s’ direction. Special mention must go to Sophie Lane, who has risen through the ranks of Young Wick and enjoyed arguably her best performance yet, tackling the dual rôle of Elizabeth as an innocent blonde and a far less innocent woman.
Another entertaining night out all round, courtesy of Wick Theatre Company and its players, and any potential pitfalls were of no concern at all.
Review #2: Murdered to Death
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Investigative spoof failed to impress
A SPOOF murder mystery combining an Agatha Christie setting and its stock characters with a bungling policeman -Clouseau-style – seemed promising. In the event the playwright fell short. It is accepted that the play is just a bit of silly nonsense poking fun at the genre and there was fun as the classic scenario unfolded with its familiar characters – the rich murder victim, a delightful but all too short cameo from Judith Berrill; a drunken butler; a colonel and his memsahib; a dodgy French art dealer and his moll. Add to this melange Joan Marple, a neighbour renowned for people being murdered in her wake and for solving cases – a delightful fusion from Anna Quick of Rutherford and Grenfell. But the rot set in with the arrival of Inspector Pratt.
While Del Boy may get away with a sprinkling of malapropisms, Pratt soon became tiresome as he dealt out shovel loads. This overblown character quickly lost its comic value. Guy Steddon saddled with an almost impossible part, might have rescued it if he had been less stentorian in his delivery and introduced more light and shade.
Paul Checkley’s Colonel was particularly impressive – the rôle fitting him like a glove.
Review #3: Murdered to Death
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: June 12 2009 issue – Weekend Guardian section – page 7
Reviewer: Jill Lawrie
Text Header: Double delight on the Adur Festival stage
THE first of Peter Gordon’s popular trilogy of murder mysteries revolving around a bumbling sleuth, aptly named Inspector Pratt. Set in the 1930’s, Murdered to Death is an hilarious spoof based on the typical Agatha Christie plot – murder in a country mansion with an assembled group of eccentric house guests/suspects!
The household consists of the hostess Mildred and her downtrodden niece Dorothy plus an unconventional butler Bunting. The initial guests are Colonel Craddock, who was an old flame of Mildred’s and she is keen to re-ignite their earlier passion, and his wife Margaret. Followed shortly by the dapper but shady French art dealer Pierre Marceau and his accomplice Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington. Last to arrive is an inquisitive neighbour Joan Marple, who cajoles an invitation to join the party for lunch, and has an penchant for murder scenes!
Following a sudden death at the house, the incompetent Inspector is called, along with his young Constable Thompkins, and the ensuing hours see him interrogate and try to piece the evidence together.
This award winning company, under the direction of Bob Ryder, put on a first class performance and kept the audience thoroughly amused. Using a talented cast of 10, each of whom gave memorable characterisations, an impressive period set complete with stone fireplace and mullioned doorway, and a range of attractive authentic costumes.
Judith Berrill [Mildred] gave a strong, albeit brief, performance ably supported by Kati Szeless [Dorothy]. Paul Checkley [Colonel Craddock], dressed in plus fours, was superb throughout and a mention, too, for the very creditable and genuine performance by Tom Harris [Constable Thompkins].
The star performer however had to be Guy Steddon [Inspector Pratt] as the buffoon with his comic corny one liners and malapropisms all delivered with great effect and timing.
This was a light-hearted and entertaining satirical parody, very much in the style of Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau, and presented by a company that never fails to succeed with an excellent show.
Review #4: Murdered to Death
Publication: N.O.D.A – National Operatic and Dramatic Association
Reviewer: Phillip Hall Regional representative for South East Region District 1 [Mid Sussex] Text: Content
Was this really a first night? Everything appeared to go so smoothly. Certainly the audience was unaware of the not uncommon first night hiccups.
An excellent cast gave us a most enjoyable evening of delightful nonsense. Judith Berrill and Kati Szeless displayed exactly the right relationship one might expect from two ladies living in a state of faded gentility with their intransigent butler, played, with grate relish, by Ray Hopper. Their two house guests, the Colonel and his wife, were an excellently matched pair with Paul Checkley and Diane Robinson admirably portraying the classic caricature of a military buffer and his wife. Sophie Lane and Adrian Kenward masquerading as the young, upper class trendies were highly successful at concealing their real personalities from the audience until the moment of truth. Both played their dual rôles very well.
Anna Quick was a delight as Joan Marple. Her dialogue, demeanour and posture were perfect but facially she was, surely, much too young. Guy Steddon mastered the convoluted, malapropesque dialogue of Inspector Pratt remarkably well and gave us clear picture of a man living up to his name. Tom Harris as Constable Thompkins was convincingly forbearing but it was very ill-mannered of him to wear his hat in the house!
With all the excellence of this cast, one aspect of the performance was quite outstanding. The facial expressions and body language of Kati Szeless were an object lesson to anyone gracing a stage. Even when not involved in the action she lived every moment.
The whole show was played out on a well designed set with good lighting, well chosen costumes. Which characters were responsible for which misdeeds was almost a matter of no consequence. Quite simply, the audience were just given an enjoyable evening out.